The Lost Art of Poem Memorization

Posted by Dr. Caroline Robison, O.D. on December 17, 2017
Dr. Caroline Robison, O.D.

The Lost Art of Poem Memorization

During this past Thanksgiving, I was helping my daughter recite a poem she was learning for school. My relative noticed and said “What’s the purpose of her memorizing poetry? I don’t see any use for it.” This shocked me and made me realize most schools have lost the art or purpose of poem memorization. What a disservice for those students! I have found such an immense benefit for my daughter in memorizing poetry by expanding her vocabulary, writing skills, culture, memorization skills and imagination.

“I have a little valentine that someone sent to me.  It’s pink and white and red and blue, and pretty as can be.  Forget-me-nots are round the edge, and tiny roses, too.  And such a lovely piece of lace – the very palest blue.  And in the center there’s a heart, as red as red can be!  And on it’s written all in gold, ‘To You, with Love from Me.’”  “My Valentine” by Mary Catherine Parsons.

My daughter lost a front top tooth as she was memorizing this poem back in Kindergarten at Heritage Oak School. I can still hear the slur in her voice as she said, “the very palest blue.”  As my daughter and her classmates were memorizing this fun Valentine poem, they were also memorizing Proverbs 3:1-8.  The most famous part of these scriptures are verses 5 and 6:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

The children may not have completely understood all that they were being asked to learn and why, but they were being made aware that they need to trust in God.  My daughter has been memorizing a poem and a section of scripture every month since the first month of Kindergarten. It is one aspect of the classical education model at Heritage Oak School that I've appreciated as a parent. Besides giving my daughter Biblical truths to hide in her heart regularly, she is learning much more than she realizes through the poetry.

Vocabulary

It's amazing to me how much my daughter is always learning. Often she will hear a word she does not know the meaning of and ask for a definition. Then two sentences later, she is using it like she has always known the word and continues to use it in everyday conversation. There are many new words found in poems. I remember we researched what a “forget-me-not” was while memorizing the Valentine poem.

Writing Skills

When is the last time you wrote a poem? My daughter is still in the early stages of learning to read and write. When the time comes to compose her own poem, I'm confident that she will have an advantage because she has memorized many examples. Learning often comes by example.

Culture

More recently my daughter memorized a poem about the Pilgrims who came to Plymouth Rock. The history lesson was obvious in that poem. However, what could my daughter have learned about Ms. Parsons and her culture from her Valentines poem? Mary Catherine Parsons poured her heart into her poem. Why? Where did she come from?

Memorization Skills

My daughter's brain is still developing. There will be many more facts that she needs to learn over her lifetime. Learning to memorize regularly will teach her brain how to better memorize for the future. Although she may be just focusing on the next memory test, I encourage her to memorize with enthusiasm for plans to remember for a lifetime.

Imagination

Poems help students expand their creativity and imagination both through reading and writing them. When my daughter memorizes her poems, I ask her to draw pictures of what the poems are about. When she was reciting the Valentine poem, she had fun drawing lace. Of course it was of the very palest blue.

If you are interested in seeing first hand the creativity of Heritage Oak School students, please visit our school on a special visitor day. You will hear a speech from an older student. That student was trained to memorize poems, maybe since Kindergarten.

See how music and chant can help students with memorization in last week's post.

Heritage Oak School Open House

Topics: Classical Education, Memorization, Poem, Poetry